As we inch closer to free agency, the buzz around Tom Brady leaving the Patriots has grown at an alarming rate. At the combine, multiple reporters have reported that Brady is most likely leaving New England. Rumors of the 42-year-old leaving give football fans many questions about the future of the Patriots.
One of the most frequently-asked questions is: Are the Patriots going rebuild, or they will attempt to stay a Super Bowl contender? The answer to this question, however, most certainly affects potential replacements for Tom Brady.
Disclaimer: I will not be including the Patriots back-up Quarterback Jarrett Stidham on this list.
#6: Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett is an ex-Patriot QB with a 1-1 regular season record, during Tom Brady’s suspension. The Patriots drafted Brissett in the 3rd round, but traded him the following season due to the first Tom Brady-Bill Belichick power struggle.
New England got Phillip Dorsett (who is also most likely leaving the Patriots in free agency) out of that trade, which turned out to be good for both sides. Brissett had starting experience early in his career with Andrew Luck’s injuries in 2017, and then retiring before this past season.
Patriots fans loved Brissett, and more importantly, their coaching staff did so as well. He already knows the Patriots’ system and could flourish in a rebuild. Brissett has shown flashes of being a good quarterback, but still is a couple of seasons away.
With the Colts in a win-now mindset, they are looking for a new quarterback to help get them to the promise land. Indy does not see Jacoby Brissett as that, at least for now. The question is if the Colts sign an aging veteran like Phillip Rivers, does that mean they would keep a young Jacoby Brissett to develop under him?
He becomes an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and is looking to get a slight pay raise. Could the Colts hold on to him after that or should they let him go now and not risk it? Brissett had a decent season last year and would have a bit of worth in a trade. But would the Patriots want to pay that price?
#5: Alex Smith
Alex Smith was once a beloved player in Kansas City, but after his gruesome leg injury, the NFL seems to have forgotten his name. Smith is still the Redskins’ quarterback but missed all of 2019 while recovering. He plans to play this season, but the question is where?
Earlier in the month, Ron Rivera expressed his interest in having a quarterback competition with Alex Smith for the starting job in D.C., but recent news shows otherwise. Rumors of the Redskins being interested in drafting a quarterback have surfaced and though they should be taken with a grain of salt, we should still question what the Redskins are planning to do.
In the 2019 Draft, Washington selected Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick. So far in his career, he has played shaky at times, but has also shown small glints of mediocrity. Where does this leave Alex Smith? He still has three years left on his contract, which would leave him plenty of time to adjust to the Patriot way, and to take a young QB under his wing.
Alex Smith his known as one of the best game managers in recent memory. He’s led the Chiefs and 49ers to the playoffs consistently throughout his career but has always come up short. With the Patriots coaching staff, he could make that extra push and start in his first Super Bowl game. Alex has more mobility than Tom Brady has (or ever had) which will add a slightly new dimension to the Patriots offense. It would give Josh McDaniels a chance to change the system up a bit which would be interesting to see. Alex Smith has also been in the league thirteen years (not counting last season) and could be a great mentor for the future of the Patriots.
#4: Teddy Bridgewater
Of all the quarterbacks on this list, Teddy Bridgewater has the highest ceiling, and could be a potential franchise-changing quarterback. During this past season with an injured Drew Brees, Bridgewater stepped in and went 7-0. In those seven games, he threw 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
His play was excellent, and he looked like a former Pro Bowler. A torn ACL, a dislocation of the knee joint, and other structural damage have derailed his career but he now seems to have gotten back on track.
With that in mind, Teddy Bridgewater is going to hit free agency with a projected annual salary of $20 million. That’s $10 million less than the minimum of what Tom Brady is asking for, which gives the Patriots a bit more cap space to sign or trade for players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. Bridgewater is solid quarterback, but with the guidance from coaches like Josh McDaniels, his play could ascend to the next level.
#3: Josh Rosen
Before last season, rumors of the Patriots trading for Josh Rosen emerged. In the end, the Dolphins traded for the former UCLA standout in exchange for a 2nd and 5th round pick. Rosen shared the field with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, with the latter getting most of the starting time.
With Miami ready to draft a quarterback, where does this leave Josh Rosen? The Dolphins have shown extreme interest in Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tua is healing from a hip injury, which leaves Rosen with a bit of wiggle room to prove his worth to other teams.
Josh Rosen was the 10th selection in the 2018 Draft and was ranked on some scouting experts’ boards as the best quarterback. Now just two seasons later it seems like his future is unclear. He’s a quarterback with potential but has nowhere to go. If any team could bring the best out of him, it would be the Patriots. Careers are reborn in New England and it looks like Josh Rosen just needs needs another chance.
#2: Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton has been the Bengals QB for the past 9 seasons and was once a Pro Bowler. He’s had many good weapons throughout his career, with players like A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Boyd, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Eifert, all excellent pass catchers. However, injuries and bad management have limited Andy Dalton’s ability to connect with these players.
Lately, Green and Eifert have been notorious for missing games, with the former missing all of 2019, and the latter in limited participation for a full season (for the first time in his career). With rumors of the Patriots being interested in both, it seems like moving to the Patriots would be the smoothest transition in Dalton’s career. The Patriots also have Mohamed Sanu, who would be another familiar face for Andy Dalton.
The Bengals have the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. They have already shown extreme interest in drafting Joe Burrow, which would mean Andy Dalton’s days at starting QB for the Bengals are limited. He needs a place with good management to revitalize his career, and with the Patriots being a few weapons and a game manager away from making a deep run in the playoffs, this option may be intriguing for Dalton.
#1 Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota is the most likely candidate for the New England Patriots to sign. They have already shown interest in signing him, and with him hitting the open market, it seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.
Mariota was the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 Draft, and has struggled since coming into the league, but has shown potential. With the Titans offense blossoming late last season, it seems like Tennessee is ready to move on. The team has shown interest in resigning Ryan Tannehill or signing Tom Brady.
Mariota has struggled to consistently make good plays as a pocket quarterback. He shows flashes of great accuracy and arm strength, but also many mental errors and poor accuracy at times. He had a lack of receivers early on in his stint with Tennessee, but as of late, A.J. Brown has emerged as the Titans’ WR1 for the future.
For New England to help Mariota succeed, they would need to prioritize big-time receivers, as he is still developing. As I’ve said with many other players on this list, the Patriots’ coaching staff could tap that potential and mold a franchise quarterback.
What the Patriots will do is still a huge question mark, and makes many fans wonder how much the league will change. With rumors of Tom Brady leaving and other big names joining the Patriots, how will this affect other teams? The only question known is the Patriots have the hardest schedule next season, and it would not be the worst option for them to tank for Trevor Lawrence.